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Way back when, I started reading Changes, one of the Harry Dresden books. The first chapter reminded me of all the things that bug me about Dresden that overwhelm the good that I shoved it back on the shelf in a fit of fury. Now I've finally read it, and am over my initial fury. My point still stands about the things that bug me about Harry, but I'm not giving up on the series. I'm also reading Steven Brust's Vlad Taltos books, which are also about a snarky badass magic-doing Mary Sue, and I'm really seeing the contrast in how the two series are written.
One, Brust throws a whole lot of kitchen utensils into each of his books, but not the whole damned sink. In Changes, at one point, I thought Butcher was actually trying to give everyone who'd been in every single one of the last eleven book a cameo, and I started checking off who we hadn't seen yet. But maybe two or three out of a billion characters were left out, leaving me seriously disappointed.

Two, Vlad actually changes. He'll build up a life, watch as life changes through things both in and out of his control, screws up, makes hard choices and has to leave entire relationships behind. His character arc is smooth and realistic, even as he is an entertaining wish-fulfillment device. As I said in my initial rant, Harry just gets characterization in the form of roles and powers lumpily stuck onto him. He's like that crazy hoarding lady in Labyrinth. However, in Changes, it seems like Butcher may be trying to reboot the character and start over from a clean slate. I am interested to see what happens next.
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I've been reading "Glimpses", by Lewis Shiner. Now, everyone who talks about this book online raves about it. It is indeed a well-written and (at first) engrossing read, but it also belongs to that popular genre, "Suburban White Man Angst," which is not one that I, a Suburban White Woman, am terribly fond of. It starts out all well and good, with the main character spontaneously making albums that Could Have Been appear out of stereo speakers. He hooks up with a producer in LA, and I'm all thinking this is totally going to be the Lathe of Heaven with Classic Rock. I was even content with the wish fulfillment of him hanging with Brian Wilson, because it really did make me appreciate the Beach Boys more. But then, the story decides to focus more on Ray's navel-gazing and attempting to come to terms with his father-issues, he has an affair, blah blah blah, and I got bored. There's just too much of that out there already, much of it equally well-written. Particularly since, twenty years after this book was written, the Baby Boomer longing for the innocence of the Sixties is already a bit of a joke.
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Last night I watched the penultimate disc of Deadwood. One of the many things I love about that show is that it isn't dependent on cliffhangers. The plots are so broad and intricate, it's not like being carried along on a roller coaster. And, half the episodes end on subtle character moments, like Swearengen monologuing to a prostitute, or ranting at an empty room, or the Bullocks in a mundane dialogue over dinner, dripping with hope and awkwardness. Once I finish a disc, I don't feel the urge to grab the next one right away. (It probably helps that I know the supply is finite.) And thus, I have stretched my viewing of that show out for years now. But it's almost done. ;_; And they'd only just brought in the lesbians.
That said, I do look forward to rewatching the series. I'm curious to see how much Swearengen actually changes over the course of the series, versus how much our perception of him changes. He's a man who can be both kind and cold-blooded at the same time. At the end of the series, he's protecting the people he was trying to kill at the beginning, but is this because he's a good guy deep down, or because it serves his interests? Just when you start to feel warm and fuzzy about the guy, he goes and does something unspeakably brutal.

I'm also reading Hellbent, Cherie Priest's latest urban fantasy, the sequel to her earlier book. Bloodshot. Yet again I marvel at her ability to engage me by giving her heroine a distinct personality in just a few pages. I mean, I get the idea that lots of books are successful precisely because their narrators are generic enough for the reader to project themselves into the story, but I usually prefer distinct characters.
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In other news, I just started reading the latest Harry Dresden book, Changes, and I really hope that the titular changes actually take place in Harry's character, because the macho-macho thing is really starting to bug me. That and the fact that Susan is back, and I was so glad when she initally left, so long ago. Her presence reduces the narrative and dialogue to cliche.
It just seems like Harry as a character hasn't actually grown over the course of these books. New stuff gets lumpily attached to him--he gets new powers, new roles--and though he is occasionally broken, he either quickly heals or ignores the wounds. He still hasn't learned to work well with others, or that maybe his reliance on brute force might be a bad thing. With the exception of Murphy, he has yet to react to women like they're human beings and not Women. Will the ignored wounds finally come back to haunt him? Will he realize his well-intentioned chivalry actually makes him an ass? We shall see. Reviews of this book are good, but I fear the changes are going to be plot and world-based, not character-based.
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[ profile] spencimusprime, [ profile] plunderpuss and I are all going to Viable Paradise in October! That's three for three of the Bellingham applicants. None shall be left behind! Many thanks to the VP team for giving us all a chance.

I took a celebratory bath (which would have been a comfort bath if I'd been turned down for VP) with candles and whiskey and a gothic novel*. Teisel the cat came in and sat on the edge of the tub the whole time. He licked my leg whenever it came within reach. Mind you, he refused to lick the same spot twice, even when it meant contorting his head to lick the underside of my knee. Then he jumped off the tub and started to gnaw the candle lighter. That got him kicked right out.

*I got another good one. The prose isn't as purple as I'd like, but the heroine is strong and sensible and though she does need some protection now and then, she's not helpless, and she helps the hero help her. There's an excellent scene where there's a guy with a gun pointed at her, and she keeps her cool and keeps the guy talking while moving him around so the hero can make a surprise attack from behind. Thus we get the best of both worlds--strong and vulnerable. If she was alone, she'd have been shot, but the hero would have been in the same position. Her being a woman is independent of her helplessness.
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I wonder what this book is like to someone who doesn't know Jay. This book was hardest for me when its reality intersected with my own. I've seen that rusty sweater, I was in that room at Iron Springs. I'm already carrying a lot of emotions of my own to the emotional apocalypse.

It's a semi-autobiographical look at my friend and mentor's struggle with cancer. It's a few parts narrative, a few parts philosophizing. It intellectualizes emotions, and pierces rationality with the cold needle of reality.

There are dramas a hundred times more intricate and emotional than Hamlet playing inside the minds of everyone around you, but you don't get to see them. They're composed of fears and hopes and imaginings of what life could be like. In writing this, Jay is showing you the play running through his head, and all the painful emotions that go with it. Reading it, you just want to hug him and go, "it's all right, it's all right. She's still with you, and your daughter's just fine." But to do that is to discount the reality of the emotions. Maybe, in writing this, Jay is hoping to eject the tumor of fear growing in his psyche. He's turned the mutated child of his fears into a slim, hardbacked novella for friends and strangers alike to carry away.

It's an apocalyptic tale, a worst case scenario, but like any good apocalypse, it leaves sparks of hope behind to burn in the post-apocalyptic wasteland. And everyone loves a good post-apocalypse, don't they?

All I can say is, I'm glad he's still around to have a birthday party this weekend. I don't think I could have read this book otherwise.

In other news, if I hear my rumors right. [ profile] spencimusprime and his wife are having a baby this very minute.
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I'm reading The Lonely Polygamist, and I had a revelation. You see, The Lonely Polygamist is one of those books with minimal plot, and maximal Characters Living Their Absurd and Dismal Lives. It's certainly interesting and emotional and well done, a little too much. I'm sensitive, and experiencing so much emotion bothers me. Emotion is like icing to me. Sometimes, I'm willing to eat a spoonful of icing straight from the jar, but the whole thing...? Ugh.

And that's the nice thing about plot. No matter the depths and heights of emotion characters experience, there's always something keeping my brain occupied, and there's a rope in the sticky bowl of frosting that I can keep pulling myself forward on.
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Today is the day that [ profile] kaerfel's book, The Rise of Renegade X comes out. She's been writing and submitting since she was twelve, and has brought worlds of wisdom and experience to our writing group. No one writes a killer query like Chelsea. Don't believe me? Go read the flap copy for her book. They used her query.
Why, here it is.

"Sixteen-year-old Damien Locke has a plan: major in messing with people at the local supervillain university and become a professional evil genius, just like his supervillain mom. But when he discovers the shameful secret she's been hiding all these years, that the one-night stand that spawned him was actually with a superhero, everything gets messed up. His father's too moral for his own good, so when he finds out Damien exists, he actually wants him to come live with him and his goody-goody superhero family. Damien gets shipped off to stay with them in their suburban hellhole, and he has only six weeks to prove he's not a hero in any way, or else he's stuck living with them for the rest of his life, or until he turns eighteen, whichever comes first.

To get out of this mess, Damien has to survive his dad's "flying lessons" that involve throwing him off the tallest building in the city--despite his nearly debilitating fear of heights--thwarting the eccentric teen scientist who insists she's his sidekick, and keeping his supervillain girlfriend from finding out the truth. But when Damien uncovers a dastardly plot to turn all the superheroes into mindless zombie slaves, a plan hatched by his own mom, he discovers he cares about his new family more than he thought. Now he has to choose: go back to his life of villainy and let his family become zombies, or stand up to his mom and become a real hero."

What was that link again? The Rise of Renegade X Official launch party tomorrow at the University Bookstore in Seattle, 7pm.
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Today I:

Tried out a faux french braid that I learned last night from the awesome Torrin Paige of Youtube.

Read an article that says that doing either good or bad things increases your willpower.

Which reminded me that I should check up on my Kiva loans. I had 15$ credit, so I added 10 and made a loan to a Mongolian butcher woman.

Then I looked at this lovely list of post-apocalyptic clothes and decided I'd dress up today.

And so I discovered how far I can walk in my pretty fake-Mongol boots, which is, to the Grocery Outlet, one-way.

Went to the Grocery Outlet and used my new EBT card.
Took the bus home.

Straightened the garage and found the hedge clippers!

Clipped the pampas grass out front! Barely got cut at all!

Started the process of cleaning my little aquarium. I need a new filter and light bulb, but when it's ready, I'm going to steal [ profile] spencimusprime's betta.

Took a shower, and now I'm sitting here letting my hair air dry and chatting to friends.

Got a membership to Worldcon 2011!

Preordered Black Blade Blues and The Rise of Renegade X by my dear roommate, Chelsea Campbell. (Preordered through the University Bookstore, because that's where she's having her kickass launch party.)

Right now, the plan is to put on real clothes and go sort books downstairs. (I found a slightly bedraggled bookshelf in the alley I'm going to attempt to set up.) I'm kind of happy sitting here, though. But if I take steps to do the one last thing on my to do list, I'll have absolutely no qualms about lying on the floor tonight watching Season 4 of Babylon 5.
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I'm going to try to keep my GoodReads up to date, if for no other reason than to remind myself that I actually do get some reading done.

I just finished Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, the second book for me to finish reading entirely on my new iPod. It's both an amazing and frustrating read. Amazing because every event and description is vibrantly drawn and usually mesmerizing. Frustrating, because there's a LOT of vibrantly drawn description.
I read it for Captain Nemo, since I want to write a short story featuring him. He's by far the best drawn character in the book, and if you want a look at how to define a character solely by their motivations, self-made environment and actions, then read this. His back story is only barely hinted at, his relationships with his crew mostly one-sided (he likes his crew, his crew likes him. That's all we know.) I was disappointed to learn that everything I know about Captain Nemo from movies and such, is pretty much all there is to know (however, I'm going to read The Mysterious Island next, which should add a little more.) However, he's mysterious and evocative and by leaving so much to the imagination, the reader is able to make a lot out of him. I definitely place him among my favorite characters ever, probably because like me, he's a hard and thoughtful person, but he's driven in bold ways by a level of passion I wish I had.
I wanna be a pirate roaming the seas with my band of bitter, bitter buddies being secretive and feeling better than everyone else!

However, worst ending ever! A lot of things are out of date in this book, of course (Dugongs=not ferocious. South Pole=not sailable to.) but worst of all is that Verne predates the memo that tells writers not to leave out the climax and instead just skip to the end and say, "And then I woke up in a fisherman's hut."
He also missed the memo that says, "If you're going to write a sequel that takes place sixteen years after the first book, don't say it takes place two years before the first book happened! Especially don't have your character die two years before their adventure that took place 'sixteen years ago.'"

Author contradictions mean I won't fret over putting Captain Nemo twenty or so years after he supposedly lived!
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Last night I finished reading Cherie Priest's "Those Who Went Remain There Still". (About some Hatfield/McCoy analogs fighting monsters in creepy gross caves.) I shut it, put it back in the little plastic sleeve Subterranean sends out their books in, went to the bathroom, then checked Twitter.
[ profile] kaerfel was saying she was in the mood for some horror reading, Silent Hill-style. And I was all, OMG and unwrapped the book for her.
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The table of contents of that book I got, annotated by a previous owner. Underlines marked by _underscore_

Brain Wave, by Poul Anderson [no!]
Bullard Reflects, by Malcolm Jameson
The Lost Years, by Oscar Lewis [no! What might have happened had Lincoln lived--_poor_]
Dead Center, by Judith Merril [_Possibly_]
Lost Art, by George O. Smith [_yes_]
The Other Side of the Sky, by Arthur C. Clarke [no!]
The Man Who Sold the Moon [no!]
Magic City, by Nelson S. Bond [yes]*
The Morning of the Day They Did It, by E.B. White [_yes_]
Piggy Bank, by Henry Kuttner [Only Fair!]
Letters from Laura, by Mildred Clingerman [ok-]
The Stars My Destination, by Alfred Bester [_no_]

*This title and author were also handwritten on the inside cover.

Good news!

Aug. 6th, 2009 09:04 pm
nonionay: (sepulchrave)
I got a new SmartMedia card for my camera. I can now take a grand total of 36 photos at once!

I also finally found my copy of Eileen Gunn's short story collection! I'm been fussing over this ever since I decided to read all the short stories I can. It was in one of the many piles of books littering my room. This one was two columns deep and atop the boxes I store my various spiritual paraphenalia in. I had the burning desire to cover my altar with candles, so I had to access the boxes. The pile of books snuggled into my beanbag chair, and remain there even now. My eyes passed over the title, "Stable Strategies," which I assumed was one of the many random poly sci books I find in the free book box. On top was [ profile] difrancis's "The Black Ship." Now, my subconscious brain put a few things together:
1) The thought, "I'm pretty sure I bought The Black Ship at the U Bookstore the same time I bought Eileen Gunn's book."
2) The word, "Gunn" in big yellow letters on the same spine as "Stable Strategies."
All this led me to say out loud, "I wonder if Eileen's book is in that pile."
This, in turn, led me to actually look closer and feel like an idiot.
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Every now and then, I try to read Ernest Hemingway. My mom gave me The Old Man and the Sea when I was younger, and I remember liking it. So it represents a rare bonding moment with mom. However, my attempts always skirt disaster. I tried to read a novel--I think it was Farewell to Arms--and couldn't get past the first few pages. I'm trying hi short stories this time (see paragraph below for reasoning). Opened to the table of contents to see what I should start with, went for "The Hills Like White Elephants," and experienced the old familiar sensation of dragging my brain over shards of gravel. (see third paragraph for an appropriate description of my experience.)

My current blast of inspiration has me wanting to cram a Howard Hawks movie into a gothic novel box, injected with Ernest Hemingway. Since most of the stories I've read so far involve a disaffected couple doing little but argue in the middle of nowhere, often in Africa where there are lions or vultures waiting around to eat you at the end of your argument, I'm starting to see how I can get away with this strange premise.

It was hot. The young woman was reading Ernest Hemingway. There was a cat in her room. The young woman was reading "The Hills Like White Elephants" and wondering how it was that anyone could use the word "was" so many times. She was thinking this so much that she missed the euphemistic line about abortion and instead wondered what the hell was the point and if every woman in his life was such a needy bitch than it really wasn't a surprise that Hemingway killed himself. And then she went on the internet and remembered that "The Hills Like White Elephants" was about abortion and felt bad because the woman was justified in her whiny indecision and if Hemingway felt like that about his whiny women who were justified than it's really not a surprise he killed himself. Fortunately, the other stories weren't so oblique, but they still had whiny women.

And that was my experience reading, "The Hills Like White Elephants." That said, I am appreciating other stories more, even though every woman has a tendency to fulfill one of my biggest pet peeve and ask, "Do you love me?"
nonionay: (wwjd)
This is from a Philip K. Dick story I'm reading. Nasha's a woman who, until this point, has mainly just put her hand over her mouth and said, "oh, that's horrible.", Dorle's a man. They've just crashed on a dead planet. It came out in 1952.

>>Nasha glanced at him.

"Listen. The Captain is dying. No one knows except the two of us. By the end of the day-period of this planet he'll be dead. The shock did something to his heart. He was almost sixty, you know."

Dorle nodded. "That's bad. I have a great deal of respect for him. You will be captain in his place, of course. Since you're vice-captain now—"

"No. I prefer to see someone else lead, perhaps you or Fomar. I've been thinking over the situation and it seems to me that I should declare myself mated to one of you, whichever of you wants to be captain. Then I could devolve the responsibility."

"Well, I don't want to be captain. Let Fomar do it."

Nasha studied him, tall and blond, striding along beside her in his pressure suit. "I'm rather partial to you," she said. "We might try it for a time, at least. But do as you like. Look, we're coming to something."<<

Why can't she just say, "hey, I don't want to be captain, you do it." Why does she need to screw a man so he can take charge? I mean, it's wonderfully kinky and all, but seriously. And why doesn't she want to be in charge in the first place? Why be vice-captian if you didn't want to be captain?
What weird, backwards logic. "single = in power, girlfriend=defers power. Therefore, if I want to defer power, I must be a girlfriend."
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I just finished reading The City and The City, by China Miéville. Reportedly, he doesn't want anyone spoiling the central twist, so I won't, which makes it hard to talk about, since the twist is the cool thing about it. But there's plenty of reviews out there that summarize it better than I could. Otherwise, the main character--a detective in a vaguely Eastern European culture investigating a murder--is bland but pleasant. The mystery itself is satisfying and pleasantly twisty without being implausible. But the setting! The setting is so marvelously messed up. If it works the way I think it does, the book isn't even normal fantasy. I don't know if I hope humanity has the strength of will to create a world so all-encompassing out of nothing but style, conditioning and willpower, or terrified that we do exactly that, every single day. What I am unseeing?

I'm so damn fascinated with borders and human perception of them, with the ways that we create our own world and our own identity. I'm almost tempted to e-mail an old professor who taught a class on that sort of thing, and demand she make this required reading.

There were a lot of things I wanted to see that I was actually glad I didn't see--more of the main character's personal life, more revolutionary stuff. I wonder if there will be a second book, and if that one would deal with those. But the book can stand alone, and likewise, the ending swells with potential. In an essay on crime fiction, he discusses how the real pleasure of mysteries is the many different potentials flying throughout the story, until the end, when it all collapses into one, and is often disappointing simply because of that necessary collapse. This novel sidesteps that by leaving the ending so full of possibilities. (Though it's still heartbreaking, because so many possibilites have been torn away.)

I'd babble about the questions I have--about the mechanics of the world and so on--but that would be spoilery, and instead I'll have to whisper them to him on Friday, when I go to his reading in Seattle. (Thank you Keffy! <3 <3 <3 )
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Skimming an email from Amazon advertising new reference books.
For some reason, this book fascinates me.

I mean, is it like something Arnold Rimmer would write? "Here's a picture of Exit 253." "Here's a picture of Exit 254."

It's probably boringly useful and talks about how many McDonalds are at each exit. But I'm fascinated by how roads interact with our culture and landscape. I'd like to know when each on ramp was built, how did it affect the community. Bellingham has a lot of broken up roads thanks to the Interstate and the strange ways they crammed in more exits than even Seattle has.
Why an exit at that spot, at Rural Road #2?
Stuff like that.
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I'm several chapters into [ profile] markteppo new book, Lightbreaker. It takes place in a world I've inhabited and orbited, and as a result, it creeps into my brain and freaks me out a little. It opens up just a few miles from where I grew up, and a lot of it so far has taken place on the Bainbridge-Seattle ferry run, that old landmark of my dreams and childhood. One of the characters is named Rasmussen, an old local name around Scandinavian Poulsbo. One of my old friends was a Rasmussen, the stoner son of two Republican pillars of the community, who had a house on Agate Pass and argued with the local Indians about the use of their beach.

I'm also excited because it's written by someone who doesn't have to bullshit their occultism!!
[ profile] kehrli, who is reading it simultaneously, said it was like reading hard science fiction with fantasy terms. Possibly a little dense for the uninitiated. But I'm like, "Yes! Oh, god, yes!"

Anyways, I'm a little biased. It will be interesting to see what Keffy thinks. And J. My dear old J. He'll piss himself when he reads this book. (Yes, Mark, I'm so buying copies for my dad and my old-boyfriend.)
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Curled up in my beanbag chair this evening with Stephen Fry's "The Ode Less Traveled." I expected an informational book, not an interactive one! But Fry pushes you along and orders you to read things out loud and mark up the sample verses with a pencil. And it's Stephen Fry, with his jovial, conversational, gentlemanly voice, and so you can't disobey. As a result, I can't let Audrey borrow it when I'm done, but will have to buy it for her as a gift. She needs her own to mark up. Definitely, because she's the only other poetry person in my group.

It includes exercises, which Fry does along with you for reassurance and example. He stresses having fun and writing poetry as a hobby. You can tell he writes his examples spontaneously, just as he wants you to, as they're full of mentions of the birds outside his window, and his desktop ashtrays overflowing. They're not masterpieces, but they're honest and show how lovely everyday things can be when you write them in iambic pentameter. They encourage everyone to join in.

I've done three of the exercises, and my brain feels pleasantly worked out. He suggests doing similar exercises regularly, and I agree. It's a good way to keep your brain working and feeling out rhythms. Most useful was the exercise that required you write two couplets in iambic pentameter, each about the same topic (he provided five--simple things like what's outside your window), one without (to simplify the jargon) punctuation, and one with. It forces you to write with different styles and think about what you're doing.
nonionay: (sepulchrave)
I went to Michael's Books, my local used bookstore of choice, to buy some big books of photography, hoping for inspiration. When I was paying, the clerk (whose name I can never remember) was commenting they hadn't seen me in a while. We talked for a bit, when Michael showed up. He said he had something he thought I'd like, and took me upstairs to see the collector's room. We talked about books and what I was interested in. (and he guessed my tastes pretty well.) Halfway through this, I realized that downstairs, I'd mentioned my change of vacation plans, and as a result, I had a thousand dollars free, and was buying books. (My thought being, "so I don't feel bad buying 200$ of books, because I'm letting myself splurge, but no more than this $200.) So of course, when Michael hears that, he's going to be all, "let me show you my thousand dollar books!"

He showed me some book that said $12.50 on the inside cover, and I figured I'd buy it out of that sense of guilt that comes with a bookseller going out of their way to show you stuff. Turns out it was $1250.00. Sheesh. While I might do collecting someday, simply because it seems like a nice way for a write to store extra money, I wouldn't do it for the lulz because hey, $1250??


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